John G. Searle Innovator Awards - Proposal Instructions

Note: This grant opportunity uses a two-step application process. The instructions below are only for those applicants who have been invited to submit a full proposal based on their letter of inquiry. To learn more about this grant or begin an application, please start here.

Proposal submission

If you have been invited to submit a full proposal:

  1. Accept the invitation by July 1, 2022.
  2. Submit your grant proposal using the online submission form. Proposals must be received by July 21, 2022 at 5:00 p.m.

Your grant proposal should consist of two PDF files that include the following materials:

File 1
  • A cover page, containing the following: 
    • Grant proposal title
    • Names of principal investigator/multiple PIs, key personnel and other significant collaborators
  • NIH biosketch(es) of the principal investigator/multiple PIs
  • A project summary in layman’s terms
  • A research plan, including the following: 
    • Specific aims (one page maximum)
    • Research strategy (four pages maximum): Significance, innovation and approach
  • Facilities and other resources (one page maximum)
  • Support letters
File 2
  • Budget – use this budget template  
  • Fringe rate (Internal pilot grants):
    • 22% for employees
    • 0% for Graduate College students
    • No indirect costs
    • No-cost extensions (NCEs) will not be allowed
    • Funds cannot be used to provide faculty salary support

More information


The Searle Foundation has committed philanthropic seed funds to support investigator-initiated research. Applications are being solicited that propose significant and innovative translational, clinical, basic science, behavioral or population-based research. The intent of these grants is to support well-designed projects that will allow development of preliminary data to enable the investigators to be competitive for future federal or private funding. Interdisciplinary proposals are of particular interest.

Funds Available
Each proposal cannot exceed a total budget of $50,000 for the one-year budget period. Applicants may submit only one application as principal investigator/Multiple PI in response to this RFP. The proposed budget cannot be used to support faculty salary or capital equipment. No-Cost Extensions (NCE) will not be allowed.
Eligible Investigators

Applicants can be early career or established investigators. At least one of the investigators in the proposal must hold a faculty position at Rush at the Assistant Professor level or above. Early investigators, women and members of groups underrepresented in biomedical or behavioral research are encouraged to apply. Inter-institutional or inter-disciplinary proposals are of particular interest. There are no citizenship or residency requirements.

Study Design and Statistical Analysis

Applicants for this RFP are strongly encouraged to develop a robust study design, data and statistical analysis, and tool development for the pilot proposal. This process could include development of a budget that may include effort and associated costs for a statistician/bioinformatics analyst for the project.


Each proposal will be evaluated by a review panel that includes members with experience and expertise in the field of the proposal. NIH criteria (see below) including provisions for compliance for the protection of human subjects, inclusion of women and underrepresented minorities, inclusion of children (if appropriate), protection of vertebrate animals and, the establishment of a data and safety monitoring board (when relevant). Award selection will be based on the top scores resulting from proposal review.

Overall Impact

Reviewers will provide an overall impact/priority score to reflect their assessment of the likelihood for the project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the research field(s) involved, in consideration of the 5 core review criteria described below.

Scored Review Criteria

Reviewers will consider each of the 5 review criteria below in the determination of scientific and technical merit, and give a separate score for each. An application does not need to be strong in all categories to be judged likely to have major scientific impact. For example, a project that by its nature is not innovative may be essential to advance a field.

  • Does the project address an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field?
  • Is there a strong scientific premise for the project?
  • If the aims of the project are achieved, how will scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice be improved?
  • How will successful completion of the aims change the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field?
  • Are the PIs, collaborators, and other researchers well suited to the project?
  • If the applicants are early-stage investigators or new investigators, do they have appropriate experience and training?
  • If the applicants are established investigators, have they demonstrated an ongoing record of accomplishments that have advanced their field(s)?
  • If the project is collaborative, do the investigators have complementary and integrated expertise; are their leadership approach, governance and organizational structure appropriate for the project?
  • Does the application challenge and seek to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms by utilizing novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions?
  • Are the concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions novel to one field of research or novel in a broad sense?
  • Is a refinement, improvement, or new application of theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions proposed?
  • Are the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project?
  • Have the investigators presented strategies to ensure a robust and unbiased approach, as appropriate for the work proposed?
  • Are potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success presented?
  • If the project is in the early stages of development, will the strategy establish feasibility and will particularly risky aspects be managed?
  • If the project involves clinical research, are the plans for 1) protection of human subjects from research risks, and 2) inclusion of minorities and members of both sexes/genders, as well as the inclusion of children, justified in terms of the scientific goals and research strategy proposed?
  • Have the investigators presented adequate plans to address relevant biological variables, such as sex, for studies in vertebrate animals or human subjects?
Facilities and other resources
  • How does the scientific environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success?
  • Are the equipment and other physical resources available to the investigators adequate for the project proposed?
  • Will the project benefit from unique features of the scientific environment, subject populations, or collaborative arrangements?

Proposals should follow the format specifications for an R21 Research Plan, in accordance with the SF424 Application Guide for NIH and Other PHS Agencies. The Research Plan should have:

Specific Aims (1 page limit)

This section should state concisely the goals of the proposed research and summarize the expected outcome(s), including the impact that the results of the proposed research will exert on the research field(s) involved. Also list succinctly the specific objectives of the research proposed, e.g., to test a stated hypothesis, create a novel design, solve a specific problem, challenge an existing paradigm or clinical practice, address a critical barrier to progress in the field, or develop new technology.

Research Strategy (4 page limit)

Organize the Research Strategy in the specified order using the instructions provided below. Start each section with the appropriate section heading: Significance, Innovation and Approach. Cite published experimental details in the Research Strategy section and provide the full reference in the Bibliography and References Cited section.

  • Explain the importance of the problem or critical barrier to progress in the field that the proposed project addresses.
  • Explain how the proposed project will improve scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice in one or more broad fields.
  • Describe how the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field will be changed if the proposed aims are achieved.
  • Explain how the application challenges and seeks to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms.
  • Describe any novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation or intervention(s) to be developed or used, and any advantage over existing methodologies, instrumentation or intervention(s).
  • Explain any refinements, improvements, or new applications of theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation or interventions.
  • Describe the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses to be used to accomplish the specific aims of the project. Include how the data will be collected, analyzed, and interpreted as well as any resource sharing plans as appropriate.
  • Discuss potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success anticipated to achieve the aims.
  • If the project is in the early stages of development, describe any strategy to establish feasibility, and address the management of any high risk aspects of the proposed work.
  • Point out any procedures, situations, or materials that may be hazardous to personnel and precautions to be exercised.
Facilities and other resouces
This information is used to assess the capability of the organizational resources available to perform the effort proposed.
  • Identify the facilities to be used (laboratory, clinical, animal, computer, office, other). If appropriate, indicate their capacities, pertinent capabilities, relative proximity and extent of availability to the project. Describe only those resources that are directly applicable to the proposed work. Provide any information describing the Other Resources available to the project (e.g., machine shop, electronic shop) and the extent to which they would be available to the project.
  • Describe how the scientific environment in which the research will be done contributes to the probability of success (e.g., institutional support, physical resources, and intellectual rapport). In describing the scientific environment in which the work will be done, discuss ways in which the proposed studies will benefit from unique features of the scientific environment or subject populations or will employ useful collaborative arrangements.
  • For early stage investigators, describe institutional investment in the success of the investigator, e.g., resources for classes, travel, training; collegial support such as career enrichment programs, assistance and guidance in the supervision of trainees involved with the ESIs project, and availability of organized peer groups; logistical support such as administrative management and oversight and best practices training; and financial support such as protected time for research with salary support.
  • Completed Page 4 and 5 from the PHS 398
  • A line item budget for the project should include both grant funds requested and funds available from other sources for the project.
  • Where project personnel are engaged in other projects, the percent of time in and compensation from other projects should be identified.
  • A narrative budget justification should accompany the budget. Applications under this initiative should not include the purchase of capital equipment.
  • Preference will be given to proposals demonstrating economy, collaboration and thoughtful use of resources.
Regulatory Approvals

Regulatory approval is required for all grant applications. You must have an approved IRB and/or IACUC specifically for this project which cannot be linked to another funding source.

Award timeline

  • Expected review: August 2022
  • Expected award notification: September 2022
  • Expected funding period: October 2022 - September 2023
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